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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

All my aimless thoughts, ideas, and ramblings, all packed into one site!

Tag Archives: Siobhan Fallon Hogan

Going in Style (2017)

Get some life into ya.

Lifelong buddies Willie (Morgan Freeman), Joe (Michael Caine) and Albert (Alan Arkin) all decide that it’s finally time to take some time back and retire, once and for all. However, once they do that, they don’t know what sorts of annoyances await them. For one, the factory that they slaved away for all of those years, aren’t going to be giving them pensions. And if that wasn’t so bad, they’re so broke that they may not be able to keep their own roofs over their heads. It’s so bad that even a piece of pie at a diner is a constant cause for argument. But then, Joe gets the idea: Why not rob a bank? Better yet, why not rob the bank that is, get this, robbing him blind in the first place? It’s a crazy idea and one met with disdain from the two other guys, but as time goes on, they start to come around to the idea. Eventually, the three hatch out a plan for what to do, but considering that they’re three old dudes, it may be a lot harder than it seems.

Do they qualify for the license to carry? Let alone, see?

Going in Style is probably an unnecessary remake, but it’s also different from the 1979 version. While that movie was a mostly dramatic, melancholy look at aging, life, and death, with some comedy splashed in there for good measure, the remake is a lot more fun, humorous, and less about being too dramatic. In a way, it’s as director Zach Braff and the studios thought that having a movie in which a bunch of old dudes try to re-ignite sparks in their lives, only to realize that they haven’t got much time left on Earth, was all too serious and real, so therefore, they added a bunch of jokes about prostates, pie, Alzheimer’s, and oh yes, the Bachelor.

Did I mention that this is Zach Braff we’re talking about here? Sure, I Wish I Was Here was a problem, but surely the same guy who made the near-classic over a decade ago (in Garden State), doesn’t feel the need for these sorts of paycheck gigs, does he? Well, in a way, it sort of seems like it, but it’s not like the movie’s the most manipulative piece of money-making machine ever made.

If anything, it’s just enjoyable and pleasing enough to literally not offend a single person.

Is that we should expect from these actors, as well as Braff? Hopefully not.

But for now, it’s fine, because Going in Style proves that the age old formula of “old dudes getting to have some fun one more time”, still kind of works. The only difference here is that the tone is a lot lighter and playful than you’d expect, which makes all of the crazy plot contrivances, twists, and turns, seem fine. Are they unbelievable and absolutely ridiculous? Absolutely, but for the longest time, the movie doesn’t do much but go about its day, with a smile on its face, and a pleasant mood on its mind.

Ride or die, boys.

And for that, it’s fine. It doesn’t ask for the heavy questions, with the heavier answers, about life, death, love, or immortality, or any of that fun stuff, nor does it really ask you to fully get too invested in its heist at the center of the film; it’s all being used to just get by and allow us to have some fun with these characters, in this place in time.

And once again, that’s fine.

It helps that Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, and Alan Arkin, no matter how old they get, still seem like total pros and can do practically no wrong. Sure, a lot of the stuff that they’re saying and yammering on about isn’t all that funny, but the three are so charming and lovely, does it really matter? Yes, it sort of does, but in this case, not really; it’s annoying to constantly see older actors get the short-shift in which they have to play these old dudes and that’s about it, but if that’s the way the world works, then so be it. It seems like Caine, Freeman, and Arkin themselves are so fine with it that it doesn’t really matter.

So long as they keep on doing what they’re doing, until the expected end of their careers, well then, no argument from me.

Keep doing what you’re doing, fellas.

Consensus: Pleasing and enjoyable enough, mostly by the talented trio of leads, Going in Style doesn’t set out to offend anyone, or change anyone’s life, and in this case, that’s all that is needed.

6 / 10

[Insert boner joke here]

Photos Courtesy of: Aceshowbiz

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Baby Mama (2008)

Who doesn’t have baby mama drama?

Kate (Tina Fey) is a businesswoman who, for the most part, has been pleased with her life thus far. She has a good job, a nice apartment in Philadelphia, and generally considers her life simple and easygoing enough that she doesn’t have to worry about too much. Problem is, there’s one thing that she really wants to do with her life that sadly, she may not be able to do: Have a child. Due to her being infertile, Kate has not been able to, no matter how hard she has tried, to naturally have a child; so, she takes the next best step in the matter, which leads her to becoming apart of a surrogacy program. In the surrogacy program, for those who don’t know what that means, Kate’s baby will, through sperm injections and all sorts of other medical shenanigans, be conceived and born through some other woman. This other woman in question just so happens to be Angie (Amy Poehler), someone who is definitely not at all like Kate. Which is fine for Kate, so long as she can trust Angie to be smart about her body and realize that there is indeed a human growing inside of her. But after Angie runs into issues with her own husband (Dax Shepard), she begins to live with Kate, which is when the two begin to learn more about one another, even if they also have differences as well.

Tina doesn't need Greg Kinnear in her life, but hey, she'll take him!

Tina doesn’t need Greg Kinnear in her life, but hey, she’ll take him! And you know why? ‘Cause she can!

Of course, in Baby Mama, wacky hijinx ensue. That’s obvious from the very start, however, Baby Mama is a tad bit smarter than most of the other broad comedies out there that would have attacked this premise as dumb as possible. This isn’t, of course, to say that Baby Mama isn’t predictable, by-the-numbers, or at least, conventional, because it’s each and everyone of those things – but working behind all of those conventions and obvious story-structures is, for one, laughs, and also, a decent-sized heart that reminds you that you’re watching a female-lead comedy, that can appeal to basically everyone.

Sure, it may definitely help if you’re a woman or going through the same life event as the one depicted here, but regardless, it doesn’t matter.

Baby Mama is, first and foremost, a comedy. And a funny one at that. Most of that comes from the fact that both Tina Fey and Amy Poehler have such great chemistry between one another, that it’s hard not to get wrapped-up in the fun and enjoyment they clearly have playing side-by-side. Even though their characters are, obviously, general opposites, not just in terms of personality, but also in social backgrounds, you still get the feeling that Fey and Poehler can’t wait for that moment in this film where their characters start to put all of their issues aside, take some shots, get wild together, and generally, have fun together.

To say that Fey and Poehler are both funny here, is doing them justice. However, there’s also another element to their performances that factor in well and that’s that their characters are actually well-written, despite initially seeming like stupid and dull caricatures from the beginning. Like, for instance, try Fey’s Kate: While she appears to be a stuck-up, way-too-serious businesswoman who is all about her job and not much else, eventually, the story goes on and we see that there’s actually a lot more fun and excitement to her life. Heck, the reasons for why she wants a baby to begin with, regardless of whether it’s naturally or through agencies, are understandable; she’s gotten to that point in her life where she wants one, she doesn’t need one, but wants one.

It's set in Philadelphia, so of course the bell-hop is a token black guy!

It’s set in Philadelphia, so of course the bell-hop is a token black guy! Gotta love my city!

That is, most of all, perhaps the greatest distinction this movie makes and is truly a smart piece of writing. It shows that woman like Kate, whether they be successful or not, don’t need to have babies to make their lives feel fulfilled. Does that mean that they’re not nice to have around? Of course not, but Baby Mama doesn’t believe that in order to make sure that your life is great and superb, it needs to be so with a baby by your side. It’s a small piece of writing, I know, but it’s what sets it apart from most other female-driven comedies out there that are all about getting married and having kids, because of some ill-conceived notion from many, many years ago, that says women need a certain amount of requirements to make their lives great.

But still, seriousness aside, Baby Mama is still a fine comedy.

Like what I said for Fey’s Kate, can be said the same for Poehler’s Angie: She may seem a bit white trash-y, but after awhile, the movie just shows her more off as a wild girl who not only likes to have some fun, but also wants to be a bit more serious in her own life as well. She doesn’t need to be serious, but she wants to be. There are others in this movie that show up in this movie that are funny, charming and welcome, but it’s really Poehler and Fey who make the movie work the most.

Even though the movie does admittedly get a bit syrupy and sentimental by the end, Poehler and Fey still feel fun and fresh, adding another sense of enjoyment to the proceedings. The plot does eventually get to be a bit too much and be about things happening, one after another, with random twists coming out left and right, but regardless, Baby Mama can still be funny and at times, relatively insightful. It may not be trying too hard, but in its own way, it sort of is; it’s taking the female-driven comedy and doing something with it that isn’t revolutionary or game-changing, but normal.

And hey, there’s nothing at all wrong with that.

Consensus: Predictable and lightweight for sure, but regardless, Baby Mama still offers up plenty of laughs and enjoyment courtesy of Poehler and Fey’s lovely chemistry.

7 / 10

Does this tend to happen? Ladies?

Does this tend to happen? Ladies?

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Dogville (2003)

Always keep a lookout on those small villages.

One night in the sleepy, quiet town of Dogville, Tom (Paul Bettany), the self-appointed town spokesman, hears a gun-shot, followed by a woman arriving in his town a couple seconds later. Her name is Grace (Nicole Kidman) and she’s on the run from her mobster daddy (James Caan). Whatever the reason may be, Tom does not worry about and hides her just in the nick of time. Now that Grace is hiding out in this small town, she’s going to have to hold her own in order to stay away from the authorities, as well as not piss off any of the town-folks themselves. Grace tries to do whatever she can and at first, everything seems pitch perfect for her to be there. But once Grace starts messing up a bit and the authorities continue to breath more and more down the town’s neck, well, then the peeps themselves start to get a little wacky and wild with Grace’s presence being known and felt, and it’s Grace who ends up on the bad end of things.

The whole gimmick behind this whole film is that it all, with the exception of maybe one scene, takes place in this small town. However, the small town of Dogville isn’t what you’d expect it to be or look like. In a way to make the flick look like a stage play on screen, or to also cut down on production-costs, writer/director Lars von Trier designs the set where you can see everything, without any walls, doors, or blockades separating us from these characters and denying us the access of seeing all that they do. On top of that, the flick is also filmed with a digital-camera, which made it seem more like I could have filmed the same thing with me and my buddies. So yeah, it’s a bit hard to get used to for about the first ten or so minutes, but mind you, this is a near-three-hour flick, so take into consideration that for at least ten minutes, you may be a tad bit uncomfortable with what’s going on.

A window?!??!? First rule of von Trier-ism broken already!?!??

A window?!??!? First rule of von Trier-ism broken already!?!??

Then again though, this is a Lars von Trier film, so for those whole near-three hours, you might be uncomfortable the whole way through. And trust me, you shouldn’t be ashamed to feel so because it’s what the dude excels in the most, but here, something feels different about it all. First of all, I loved how von Trier set this story up in a way to make us feel as if we are right there in the middle of this town, right from when Grace pops herself in, to the end where the town has been practically turned inside out. It works because as the hysteria and panic within this community begins to swell-up and lose all of control, we feel the same emotions as well and it becomes a hard film to get through on many levels. One of those levels being that von Trier never strays away from showing us some dirty, messed-up stuff that he’s been planning in his head for quite some time. But like I said, something feels different about it all this time.

See, rather than feeling exploitative and provocative, just for the sake of being so, there’s a point to von Trier’s madness: To convey fear. The movie jingles on that idea every once and awhile, until the final ten minutes rolls up and takes it to the extreme, but it works because it’s so very true. Coming from a human being as well, it’s very hard to admit because this flick is inexplicably making fun of how humans react to a little bit of change, in a way that makes them go mad or insane. We, as a society, all feel the need to continue to go on with our days, the same way as if they were the way before. However, once a little diversity in that day comes around to shake things up a bit, then we lose our grips of what’s acceptable behavior and what isn’t.

I would totally like to go into a little more detail and explore why I have came to this conclusion that I have, but only going on further would spoil the movie and have you expect the unexpected, which is not what this flick is all about and surprisingly, may take the fun out of it all. I can’t say that the flick is “fun” per se, but it’s a challenging piece of work that asks you to reflect on your own minds, your own ways and your own style of living, but also asks that you take note of the next time you feel fear. How do you respond to it? Do you act irrationally? Do you keep your place in check and not lose sight of what’s really meant to be fearful of? Or, do you do nothing? The flick goes more and more in-depth with this idea than it should, but I have to say that for once, watching a von Trier movie and seeing all of the ugly stuff that he pulls out of his rump and having it all make sense and cohesive to what he’s trying to get across, I was satisfied. I was emotionally torn-up, but I was also satisfied with what von Trier brought to the forefront, to make us take a look at. It may not be something we want to even acknowledge is present in our lives, but it’s always there. Von Trier knows this; I know this; hell, everybody knows this!

You can’t escape it, because fear will always be there. No matter what.

There’s probably more themes to shake a stick at here, but this is neither the time, nor the place for me to do so. Maybe when I’m in my superficial, artsy-fartsy film class next semester, but as for right now: I have a movie to review, and performances to praise. Main one being the one from Nicole Kidman as Grace, a name that sticks so perfectly with her act and the final conclusion this flick comes to meet. Kidman’s always been a knock-out actress, there’s no questioning it. She’s always been able to take a role, however crazy or simple it may be, do whatever she wants with it, and always give us a performance that knocks all of her other ones out of the park. However, I wouldn’t have been surprised if people were a little skeptical about whether or not Kidman would be able to handle von Trier’s style or treatment of his characters, especially the female one.

"And so kids, that's what the ending to Antichrist means. Or so I think."

“And so kids, that’s what the ending to Antichrist means. Or so I think.”

However, all those skeptics can kiss Kidman’s firm-behind because she does an amazing job as Grace, giving us a performance that’s more physical than emotional. And no, that’s not me being a dirty boy. Kidman has those expressive, beautiful eyes that are able to convey any sort of emotion – whether it be sadness, forgiveness, regret, vulnerability, love, or happiness, give her an emotion to express, and she’ll do it ten times better than you’d ever expect her to do. She’s just an amazing actress, and despite her character being a bit too repetitive and weak-minded, Kidman pulls through and gives us a three-dimensional character that we care about, not just because of all this bad stuff happening to her, but because she’s the only one with a bright head on her shoulders.

Everybody else here seems to be a bit too crazy for their own good, with the exception of Paul Bettany as Thomas Edison, the philosopher and free-mind thinker of the small community that takes a liking to Grace right off the bat. Bettany’s always been a quality actor and even though I feel like his Southern-accent was a little suspect, the guy still gives us a good character that seems like he has all of the right intentions one person could want or need; he just doesn’t know what to do with them or how to show them in a way that could be suitable for both Grace and the rest of the community. Sometimes, both aspects don’t ever seem to come together, but you have hope that he’ll do the right thing no matter what, even if he does get a pushed-up against a wall many more times than one.

The rest of the heavy-stacked cast is very good too, even if nobody shines brighter than the other. They all do wonderful jobs, but it’s Kidman’s and von Trier’s show for the taking, and they won’t let you forget about it, either. Not even when the credits show up, which are some of the darkest, but hilarious credits I have ever seen scrolling in my life. Seriously, try to watch them without cracking at least a chuckle or two by the irony. The end.

Consensus: As with most of von Trier’s movies, Dogville is most likely going to be a hard pill to swallow for some, but once you get by all of the dark sexuality and titillation of the material, you’ll find yourself surprisingly compelled and interested in what von Trier has to say, whenever he gets to that breaking-point.

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

No wonder why everybody's so cranky and mean: No toilets!!

No wonder why everybody’s so cranky and mean! There’s no toilets!!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderComingSoon.net

Dancer in the Dark (2000)

When life blows, just sing avant-garde tunes.

Selma Jezkova (Björk) is a Czechoslovakian factory worker who struggles with life, but is trying her best to make the best of what she has. She loves and adores Hollywood musicals and how they put her into this new world, where happiness, song and dance is abound. But the reality is pretty harsh: Not only is she losing her sight, but she knows that her son will soon, too. This is why, with all of the money she earns and receives from both work and her neighbors, she saves up in order to make sure that her son can get a surgery on his eyes when he turns 13, just so that he doesn’t have to go through the same eye-sight problems that she’s having. However though, things in Selma’s life begin to go very, very South and eventually, she finds herself in a bit of a pickle, where she can only rely on her friend (Catherine Deneuve) and that’s about it. Well, her, and also, her daydreams where she places herself in a modern-day musical, where she, and whoever else around her, are the stars of the show.

I bet by just uttering the name “Lars von Trier”, people already know what to expect from a movie of his. However, a musical? I don’t think that thought would ever cross into anybody’s minds when thinking of von Trier, however, this is the same kind of guy that likes to surprise his audience, keep them on their tip-toes and not give them what they want, and be satisfied with himself.

And she thought signing autographs was bad enough!

And she thought signing autographs was bad enough!

And if what it is you want is a positive-thinking movie, about happy people, doing nice things for one another, then you’re definitely in the wrong part of town, folks. This is Lars von Trier for Lord’s sakes – the guy who isn’t afraid to put his foot in his mouth in public, nor is he afraid of what the MPAA may have against his movie’s content. He’s a balls-breaker, but best of all: He’s a story-teller, and no one should ever forget that.

Like I mentioned before, you’d never expect someone as drab and as downbeat as Lars von Trier to make a movie in which light, fun and upbeat musical-numbers come completely out of nowhere, but then again, they aren’t really the kind of musical-numbers you’d usually see in something like Grease, the Sound of Music, Mary Poppins, or anything else for that matter. The purpose these musical-numbers serve is that they give the lead character, Selma, an escape from the nightmare her real life becomes. They give her life new meaning and allow her to look on the bright side of things, even if the fact of the matter is that her life absolutely sucks and is only going to get worse from there.

That’s why, as jarring as it initially may be to see von Trier’s characters moving around, dancing, signing and performing as if they were on Broadway, you get used to it after awhile. Also, you realize that the reason why von Trier has these frothy-notes included here is more to poke a bit of fun at the way Hollywood makes light of all of life’s brutal, harsh realities; much rather than applauding Selma’s daydreams as being images that help her get by in life, he looks down on them with a cold, dark and satirical scowl, while still showing that they are needed for her and her life. In a way, he’s almost satirizing Hollywood’s love of the musical, in all of its lovely, delightful-form, which is why it’s sometimes funny to see how over-the-top and how out-of-place these musical-numbers can be and show up in.

However, they all serve a purpose, and that is to blur the lines between what is real, and what isn’t.

And though I want to get very much into detail about where this story and how dark, disturbing and truly terrifying it gets, I can’t help but steer clear from that, due to the fact that once I’ve said one big reveal, I’ve said too much. Then again though, by knowing that this is a Lars von Trier movie, you can already tell that while the story may start-off simple, easy and relatively peaceful, it only continues to get worse, and worse, and worse over time, where people act and behave in disgusting ways. Disgusting ways that, mind you, are exactly what von Trier loves to discuss and show in his movie; he believes that this is the way in which the human-condition actually is, and doesn’t shy away from showing just how evil one person can be, when push comes to shove. I don’t know if I myself, fully believe in von Trier’s juxtaposition, but I do like how he embraces this fact with his characters, and how he shows them in all lights – positive, negative, realistic, etc.

Which is why I find it so hard to have any problems with his movies, especially this one, because while I do realize that these characters are supposed to be written in a humane, fully-dimensional way, I still can’t help myself but to hate most of them. Yet, at the same time, still understand them and the reasons behind their actions. Take, for instance, David Morse’s performance as the neighbor who spends time with Selma, confiding in her and, sometimes, even trying to push her into giving him some money, in order to support his wife, as well as make sure she won’t leave him when she finds out he’s broke. It’s no surprise that Morse is great in this role, but what really surprised me was how this guy was supposed to be painted as something of a “villain”, yet, he’s actually somewhat sympathetic because there’s a connection in the way his choices and decisions are so drastic, that you can tell they come from a deep place in his heart. We’re not supposed to like him, nor are we supposed to empathize with him because of how much of a evil dude he turns out to be, but somehow, it’s hard to hold so much anger towards him.

Don't mess with her too much, pal! We all know what happens when somebody messes with her too much....

Don’t mess with her too much, pal! We all know what happens when somebody messes with her a little too much….

Same goes with just about everybody else in this flick. Peter Stormare plays the kindest character of the whole movie, a guy named Jeff who, obviously likes and wants to be Selma’s boyfriend, although he goes about it in a creepy, stalker-y way; Catherine Deneuve clearly cares and loves Selma for the gal that she is and supports her through thick and thin, but does put her nose where it doesn’t belong most of the time and comes out looking a bit like a dummy; Cara Seymour plays Morse’s character’s, shopaholic wife, who wants to believe that Selma is a nice woman, but also doesn’t want to hold anything against her husband for going about his business in a sneaky way; and even Siobhan Fallon Hogan, who shows up at the end as a prison-guard, doesn’t act like the butch, angry-as-hell woman she appears to be, but instead, turns out to be a woman who cares deeply for Selma, during her time of grief and sadness. All of these characters look, feel and sound real, even if their actions don’t always make us happy with them. Yet, we still see where these said actions come from.

But of course though, I saved the best for last with Selma. I think for anybody that knows who Björk is, knows that her music is a little bit strange, or better yet, “of a certain taste”. However, for one thing, she is a musician, and never in my mind, did I ever imagine her as an actress; a very good one, at that. There are some parts in this movie where you can see that Björk was probably left to fend for herself with this movie and with this role, which probably has to do more with von Trier’s style, but it works so well for the character of Selma, in making her a sweet, natural woman that cares for people and believes that all humans are inherently good, yet, makes some unsympathetic choices.

However, like I was speaking about before, they are all choices that come from a brutally real, honest place in her heart and soul, which is why it’s so surprising to see how great Björk is here. Sure, when she’s wailing around, singing and dancing about how grand and beautiful life can be, she’s stunning to watch, mostly because she’s in her element. But, when she steps out of those scenes and has to do more like emoting, she’s even better, which makes you wonder why she hasn’t acted in barely anything since. Sure, von Trier’s directing probably took a huge-toll on her, but what Björk does so well here is that she creates this wonderful, simple lady and gives her so much to work with, even when life seems to consistently be disappointing for her. Which, throughout the last-hour of this movie, it totally does. However, Selma keeps her hopes high, he standards for what it means to be “human”, her smile, her good-will, and most of all, her singing, dancing and daydreams about the perfect, Hollywood musical playing out in her head. Is that a good thing, or a bad thing? The answer is up to!

Consensus: As usual, like most of Lars von Trier’s movies, Dancer in the Dark continues to get disturbing, just as it story begins to develop more, but what really keeps it moving at a fine, thought-provoking speed is the performances from everyone involved, and the attention to detail von Trier gives every single one of his characters, no matter how reprehensible some of them, as well as their actions, may be.

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

Seriously. How could you have a problem with that face? I mean, just look at it!

Seriously. How could you be mad at that face? I mean, just look at it!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBCollider